Bethel City Council Votes To Deny Liquor Licenses

It’s been four decades since Bethel had a liquor store, and for now, that status will continue. The Bethel City Council voted Tuesday to protest two liquor store license applications from the Bethel Native Corporation’s Bethel Spirits and the Alaska Commercial Company.

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Council members cited the loud public outcry against having easier access to alcohol, as well as possible violations of rules against being too close to churches and schools.

When the debate entered the weeds, Council member Chuck Herman added a line to the resolution:

“I just want to make it very clear our protest stands based upon us as a community being opposed to it and not based on any technical violations.”

The vote was 4 to 3.

The state’s Alcoholic Beverage Control board is required to honor protests from governing bodies unless they are found to be arbitrary, capricious, and unreasonable.

Bethel Native Corporation President and CEO Ana Hoffman insisted the proposed store is legally situated and argued that what Bethel has now is not working.

“The presence of illegal sales is undeniable and not a cent of the sales is taxed. We have quite possibly created the most unhealthy environment imaginable. Unlimited importation and no mechanism for legal sales. Allowing for the issuance of a liquor licenses enhances control and regulation over the current system of chaos.”

In an October non-binding advisory vote, Bethel citizens will weigh in on whether they support several categories of liquor licenses. In the same election, they can approve a new 12 percent alcohol sales tax.

Ben Matheson is a contributor with the Alaska Public Radio Network.

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